The Auditor-General’s Office last week once again released three reports detailing deep-rooted corruption in government, parastatals and local authorities, giving the authorities another golden opportunity to walk the talk on graft.
THE STANDARD COMMENT
AG Mildred Chiri has for years exposed rampant corruption and financial leakages in government, but nothing has ever happened to the culprits and no attempts have been made to recover the stolen money.
The latest reports, among other scandalous things, revealed that a deal for the construction of a new runway at the Harare International Airport was inflated by $13 million and that Information Communication Technology minister Supa Mandiwanzira took a $194 000 loan from a parastatal under his ministry to buy himself a car while government continues to lose millions of dollars to ghost workers.
Both urban and rural councils were also found to be riddled with corruption, with many incidences of outright theft by staff exposed.
An audit of schools uncovered widespread absenteeism where over 160 headmasters, their deputies and teachers were found to be away from work without leave of absence.
During the days of the inclusive government, an investigation by a reputable auditing firm revealed that government was losing money every month to ghost workers.
Some of the workers were illegally recruited by Zanu PF-controlled ministries as the ruling party prepared for the 2013 elections.
Three years after the inclusive government was dissolved, the AG audit found that 12 500 people were still drawing salaries totalling $85 million annually yet they were not on the civil servants’ payroll.
Chiri’s report says 3 500 people were getting $21 million annually in salaries every year from the government payroll yet the employees were unaccounted for.
She noted that the discrepancies distorted the government payroll, “leaving the system open to abuse in the form of members being allowed to provide services without authority.”
Such leakages are happening at a time the government is failing to pay its workers and pensioners on time due to dwindling revenue inflows.
The cost of corruption in government departments is very high and the findings in Chiri’s audits are just a tip of the iceberg.
These past few months have seen a number of corrupt activities by senior government officials being exposed by the public and private media.
The toothless Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission has done its bit to investigate cases brought to its attention, but it is hamstrung by poor funding.
However, of bigger concern has been the government’s failure to act on the reports produced by Chiri’s office every year. This appears to have bolstered the culture of impunity that has permeated almost every government office.
President Robert Mugabe and Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa are some of the high-ranking government officials that have come out strongly against corruption vowing zero tolerance but it is clear that they do not practise what they preach.
The two are presiding over a very corrupt system and it is evident that their failure to act when corruption is exposed in government ranks is to blame for the festering wound.
In the same vein, Chiri has to be commended for her tenacity and commitment to duty despite the odds being heavily staked against her. Her reports may become useful one day when Zimbabwe gets a responsible government.